Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rebuking Obama and Schumer

Well it looks like the GOP picked up the two special election seats in New York, where the Republican has a substantial lead and in Nevada where the Republican beat the Democrat by 22 points. They seem very slow in counting the votes in New York, but the AP has called it for Turner, the Republican. Remember this is the seat held previously by Geraldine Ferraro, Chuck Schumer, and Anthony Weiner. It will probably get redistricted out of existence next year, but right now the voters decided that they wanted to send a signal to the national Democrats, particularly President Obama. That was the specific message that the Republicans used in their campaign. Wow. Michael Barone adds his knowledge of the district and notes that Turner's strength was with the Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn even though the Democratic candidate is himself an Orthodox Jew.
Primary reason, it appears: to protest Barack Obama’s policies and actions toward Israel. As others have pointed out, these relatively middle-scale (as opposed to upscale or downscale) Outer Borough Jews are not typical of affluent Jews in Manhattan or high-income suburbs, and so there is limited precedental value here for other districts. Nevertheless, it is also notable that Weprin ran no better than even among other voters in the district. For nearly two decades it has been taken for granted that white residents or metro New York are heavily Democratic. Not so the white residents of the 9th congressional district today. They just issued what amounts to an emphatic thumbs down on the policies of the Obama Democrats.

This result is a rebuke to Barack Obama, but it is a rebuke as well—a stinging one, perhaps more stinging—to Senator Charles Schumer. He represented much of this district for 18 years and the now disgraced Anthony Weiner was his staffer and pretty obviously Schumer’s chosen successor as congressman when he ran successfully for the Senate in 1998. In addition, Schumer has made it his special project to win back white middle class voters in places like metro New York for the Democratic party.
This is a district that went for Obama in 2008 by 55%. PPP results revealed that it was Obama's policies towards Israel that have hurt him with this population.
The issue of Israel does appear to be having a major impact on this race. A plurality of voters- 37%- said that Israel was 'very important' in determining their votes. Turner is winning those folks by an amazing 71-22 margin. With everyone who doesn't say Israel is a very important issue for them Weprin actually leads 52-36. Turner is in fact winning the Jewish vote by a 56-39 margin, very unusual for a Republican candidate. This seems to be rooted in deep unhappiness with Obama on this issue- only 30% of voters overall approve of how he's handling Israel to 54% who disapprove and with Jewish voters his approval on Israel is 22% with 68 of voters disapproving. That has a lot to do with why Turner's in such a strong position.
Obama seems to have lost the independents in this district. And it will be hard to blame the loss on a bad Democratic candidate since he comes from a known political family in the area and he should have held appeal among Orthodox Jews. PPP reports that he even had positive favorability numbers. It just seems to be the voters' negative views of Obama that dragged Weprin down. That will make Obama's sales job on his jobs program even harder to sell.

So why are some Jewish voters souring on Obama? He has been the most anti-Israel president we've ever had. Dan Senor reminds us of Obama's hostility toward Israel. It's an astounding list. Here are some reminders.
• February 2008: When running for president, then-Sen. Obama told an audience in Cleveland: "There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel." Likud had been out of power for two years when Mr. Obama made this statement. At the time the country was being led by the centrist Kadima government of Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Olmert had been pursuing an unprecedented territorial compromise. As for Likud governments, it was under Likud that Israel made its largest territorial compromises—withdrawals from Sinai and Gaza.

• July 2009: Mr. Obama hosted American Jewish leaders at the White House, reportedly telling them that he sought to put "daylight" between America and Israel. "For eight years"—during the Bush administration—"there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished," he declared.

Nothing? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon uprooted thousands of settlers from their homes in Gaza and the northern West Bank and deployed the Israeli army to forcibly relocate their fellow citizens. Mr. Sharon then resigned from the Likud Party to build a majority party based on a two-state consensus.

In the same meeting with Jewish leaders, Mr. Obama told the group that Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection." This statement stunned the Americans in attendance: Israeli society is many things, but lacking in self-reflection isn't one of them. It's impossible to envision the president delivering a similar lecture to Muslim leaders.

• September 2009: In his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama devoted five paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during which he declared (to loud applause) that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." He went on to draw a connection between rocket attacks on Israeli civilians with living conditions in Gaza. There was not a single unconditional criticism of Palestinian terrorism.
Then there was the hissy fit that the Obama administration had over the settlements that were being built in Jerusalem and announced during a Biden visit to Israel. Clinton called Netanyahu and chewed him out and made sure that the media knew about it and Obama snubbed Netanyahu when he then visited Washington. And how does the Obama administration treat the Palestinian celebration of terrorists? You guessed it.
Moments after Mr. Biden concluded his visit to the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority held a ceremony to honor Dalal Mughrabi, who led one of the deadliest Palestinian terror attacks in history: the so-called Coastal Road Massacre that killed 38, including 13 children and an American. The Obama administration was silent. But that same day, on ABC, Mr. Axelrod called Israel's planned construction of apartments in its own capital an "insult" and an "affront" to the United States. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went on Fox News to accuse Mr. Netanyahu of "weakening trust" between the two countries.
It's a constant pattern of criticizing Israel while ignoring what the Palestinians do.
• March 2011: Mr. Obama returned to his habit of urging Israelis to engage in self-reflection, inviting Jewish community leaders to the White House and instructing them to "search your souls" about Israel's dedication to peace.

• May 2011: The State Department issued a press release declaring that the department's No. 2 official, James Steinberg, would be visiting "Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank." In other words, Jerusalem is not part of Israel. Later in the month, only hours before Mr. Netanyahu departed from Israel to Washington, Mr. Obama delivered his Arab Spring speech, which focused on a demand that Israel return to its indefensible pre-1967 borders with land swaps.
So those voters who care about Israel have to consider the full Obama record. When they do, they're not going to be happy. Jews will probably still vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but there is already a fall off in donations by Jews and a significant drop-off in Jewish support could make a difference in a close vote in Florida. And the vote yesterday was a real warning call.